Detailed Facilities Management Update
This message comes in follow up to my most recent system-wide communication regarding the State of Tennessee’s Facilities Management Initiative. I apologize, upfront, for the length of this post, but given recent concerns related to this issue, I wanted to provide as much detail and clarity as possible.
The most recent meeting of state and public higher education officials on the Governor’s ongoing facilities management exploration efforts occurred on Tuesday, Feb. 16. It involved more in-depth discussions regarding next steps in the process and provided greater insight into the State’s interests in addressing operational efficiencies across Tennessee, including within higher education.
Important aspects of our discussion, which I believe are of greatest interest to our university communities are reflected in the bullet points at the end of our joint press release, which can be accessed via the highlighted link.
Since there have been a lot of concerns and misinformation, I wanted to personally confirm the following critical facts:
- First, regardless of the costs that have been analyzed, benchmarked or discussed to date, the final decision to opt in or opt out rests with the various campuses.
As the summary release states, we still have the option to opt-out even after all state costs are validated, all proposals are received and the final comparison of validated state costs compared to proposed service provider costs is complete. The validation will be done by a qualified, independent third party.
This means that our campuses do not have to make any final decisions until after our internal costs have been verified by a third party auditor and all estimates received through the RFP process from selected qualified vendors have been analyzed. After that point, I believe we can make meaningful comparisons and informed decisions that are based on solid facts and figures as opposed to assumed numbers based on an extrapolation from benchmarks.
It should be noted that we all agreed the final decision to opt-in or -out of providing contract-based facilities management services belongs to the campuses, with leadership of those campuses being responsible for justifying their decision to the UT System Administration and the Board of Trustees.
- Secondly, those of us representing the interests of higher education in the State have reiterated our commitment to being engaged throughout the duration of this process. This will ensure that service provider bidders have the experience and qualifications necessary to deliver quality services should any of our campuses, ultimately, choose to opt-in to the State’s facility services contract.
- Thirdly, and most importantly, we have been assured that the Governor and his administration do not have any hidden agendas to create massive work force reductions, neither at the expense of quality services nor for the benefit of the potential third party provider.
I have and will continue to maintain my support of our facilities services employees throughout this process. I supported language that you see in the joint release, which notes that any contract with a service provider will include strict language prohibiting the successful provider from initiating any reduction in force at any time during the contract period and no current qualified and productive employee will lose their job just because of outsourcing.
With these points in mind, be assured that no one will be forced to implement a plan that is not in the overall best interest of our University, its personnel or its students.
I will be meeting with each of our campus chancellors in the days ahead to discuss this process in more detail so they can speak with their respective campus stakeholders more directly as this process moves along. If it is determined that there are justifiable savings for a particular UT campus, the State is committed to allowing those savings to be used at the campus level to further enhance their programs.
If savings are justified, this process would have been well worth the effort since it is consistent with the plan that our Board of Trustees and campuses initiated with me a year ago when we committed to fixing our broken business model.
Finally, I want to reiterate my support of this process and reaffirm the University’s good faith commitment to a thorough review of the involved information and to our engagement in this initiative until we have been presented the necessary, valid information for making an informed decision whether to opt in or out.
The concerns of our workforce have been legitimate, based on the information they were provided, but my hope is that this message and the statements offered in the recent joint release with the State will help alleviate remaining concerns.
I am truly grateful to our faculty and staff who demonstrate their pride in serving this university day in and day out as well as for the past and current support given to us by the Governor and our legislators. I believe State administration is sincere in its support for higher education, and I continue to ask for your trust and patience as we work through this matter together.
All the best,